Atkinson's Mill – aka Bradley Mill – at Colne Bridge was a woollen mill owned by Thomas and Law Atkinson.
On 14th February 1818, a group of children working the night shift, were locked in whilst the overlooker went for his evening meal, or had gone home to bed.
Around 5:00 am, a 10-year-old boy had been sent into the card room with a lighted candle, in order to fetch some roving. The flame accidentally set fire to some cotton and a fire broke out.
The boy ran up the stairs to inform the workers.
Two overlookers got the children to the top of the stairs, but some ran back into the mill and were suffocated by the smoke.
A ladder was positioned to allow the children to escape through a window at the opposite end of the mill, but the fire drove them back, and the floor gave way.
9 children survived, but 17 girls – aged between 9 and 18 – died:
Newspaper reports said that
the bodies of 15 of the sufferers [were] in so mutilated a state as to render it impossible for their nearest friends to recognise them
The girls are buried in the churchyard in nearby Kirkheaton.
It is said that the overlooker lost the key to let the workers out. Another story says that the overlooker was on-site and ordered those who were trying to escape to go back into the mill.
The property was insured by the Sun and Phoenix Fire Offices.
An enquiry decided that no person was to blame.
It is said that the Dumb Steeple may be a memorial to the girls
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Malcolm Bull 2013 /
Revised 14:25 on 29th September 2013 / kk_85 / 6